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30 easy ways to save energy

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the real estate management industry can reduce energy usage by up to 30 percent simply by improving building operating standards. If a 1 million-square-foot portfolio can reduce its energy consumption by just 10 percent, it would be the environmental equivalent of removing almost 5,000 cars off the road for one year.

Energy efficiency is easy -- and doesn't require significant capital expenditures to make a big difference in your operating expenses. Use this checklist to reduce the need for unscheduled maintenance and to make sure that you're saving all you can. Start with the lowest cost efforts and use cumulative dollars saved to invest in larger improvements.

1. Check to see that equipment is functioning as designed.

Regularly inspect all equipment and controls to ensure they are functioning as designed. Double-check EMS (environmental management system) programming to make sure that operations are optimized. One firm corrected an EMS software programming error from "and" to "or" and saved $3,700 annually.

2. Calibrate thermostats.

Periodically, walk through the building and compare the thermostat setting with a handheld digital thermostat (preferably one measuring to two decimal places). Ensure thermostat setting equals actual space temperature.

3. Adjust dampers.

Bring in the least amount of outside air necessary to maintain proper air quality. Reduce outside air requirements by adjusting dampers to minimize the need to condition outside air, but be sure to stay within codes requirements.

4. Consider your cleaning options.

¥ Team cleaning: Janitors go through the building as a team floor by floor, and the lighting is turned on/off as they progress through the building.

¥ Occupancy sensors: Install motion sensors that will turn lights on when janitors are cleaning and automatically turn them off when the floor is vacant.

¥ Coordinate: Have janitors coordinate with the security crew to walk through the building and turn off equipment that was inadvertently left on by tenants.

¥ Day cleaning: Why not have the janitors clean during the day while the lights are already on?

5. Encourage tenants to turn off equipment.

During off hours, make sure to power down everything such as copiers, kitchen equipment and task lights. Use cleaning/security personnel to turn off miscellaneous items such as coffee pots, kitchen equipment and individual office lights.

6. Institute an energy awareness program.

Create promotional items, post posters, write news releases -- tell everyone about your commitment to energy savings. Use your company newsletter and company/building announcements to keep tenants informed about your energy savings goals and how they can both help and benefit.

7. Encourage tenants to use Energy Star equipment.

Adopt a procurement policy as part of your overall successful energy management strategy and encourage tenants to do the same. And when you're finished or ready to upgrade, recycle that equipment.

8. Install monitor power management software.

In U.S. companies alone, more than $1 billion a year is wasted on electricity for computer monitors that are left on when they shouldn't be. Avoid those wastes by installing power management software for computer monitors and CPU/Hard Drives. These devices allow monitors and CPUS to enter a "sleep" mode when they're not in use.

9. Harvest daylight.

Locate work stations requiring high illumination adjacent to windows.

10. Switch off overhead and task lights when daylight is sufficient.

11. Clean windows and skylights.

Window and skylight cleaning will allow more natural daylight to illuminate work areas.

12. Use work station task lighting.

Direct light at areas where tasks are being performed and use lower wattage for overhead ambient lighting. Consider combining with motion-controlled power strips.

13. Change incandescent bulbs to CFL & HID.

Compact fluorescent lamp and high intensity discharge lamps use less energy, have longer life and produce less heat, thereby reducing heat load. Also, check the lighting in restrooms, closets, server rooms and some common areas. Thanks to the 2005 Energy Bill, lighting retrofits and upgrades that meet energy efficiency requirements may be tax deductible.

14. Convert T12 to T8 and T5.

Re-lamping? Even if you just re-lamped your buildings three years ago, take a lighting survey again. Lighting continuously gets more efficient.

15. De-lamp and disconnect unused ballasts.

Many buildings are just too bright. Look at bulbs, fixtures, lamps that are there, and see what you can discontinue using. If de-lamping opportunities exist, you may be able to go from four lamps in perimeter down to two lamps. Be sure that you also disconnect the unused ballasts.

16. Verify that full-floor lighting sweeps are happening.

Program and periodically verify that the EMS system is performing full floor lighting sweeps. During construction, some building lights may be hard wired to the "on" position, meaning that EMS-programmed lighting sweeps will not turn off the lights.

Some building managers recommend staying at work late one night a month or else driving past the building after hours to ensure that the programmed lighting sweep is actually taking place.

17. Install occupancy sensors.

Install occupancy sensors to automatically turn off lights when physical movement stops. This strategy may be especially effective in spaces that are used infrequently, such as storerooms and conference rooms. Occupancy sensors work not just for lights but also for HVAC controls.

18. Use high-efficiency LED exit signs.

Replace inefficient exit signs with high efficiency LED exit signs. LED exit signs operate 24 hours a day and have lower maintenance costs due to their extended life.

19. Install timer controls or photocells for exterior lighting.

You probably have some kind of timer controls or photocells on your exterior lighting. But re-examine how the exterior lighting is actually being used. Make sure timer controls are functioning properly. Consider sequencing when the lighting in certain areas comes on and off, with tenant safety and security upper most in your mind.

20. Adjust temperature.

Physically walk through the building and talk with tenants to determine if the actual temperature is comfortable. Make sure the temperature you have in the building is what tenants need; re-examine what was contracted for in the lease -- it may be too cold or too hot for the tenants' comfort.

21. Have the lowest amount of dehumidification when the building is unoccupied and raise the indoor thermostat setting during the cooling season.

Has anyone walked into an office during the summer and felt cold? Summer clothing is typically lighter, thereby requiring less AC to keep the tenants comfortable. Conversely, winter clothing is heavier, thereby requiring less heat to keep the tenants comfortable. In addition, you should be able to reduce thermostats by a minimum of 10 degrees at night, or weekends and holidays during the heating season.

22. Evaluate after-hours usage.

Are you conditioning space when no one is there? Talk to the tenants to see if they are actually using their space during the lease required operating hours. Adjust building operating hours to reflect actual tenant usage.

23. Adjust ventilation.

Reduce exhaust and outdoor-air ventilation rates within codes. Take a look at the fans and adjust ventilation in unoccupied and low density areas to reduce the ventilation to a practical yet comfortable level. Where code permits, close outdoor air dampers during the first and last hours of occupancy to permit fast warm-up and cool-down. Regularly inspect and repair ventilation equipment -- be sure dampers have proper seals and adjust to ensure complete closure.

24. Limit access to thermostats.

Tenants typically feel that they should have access to the thermostats since they are paying for the energy, but it's not uncommon for people to adjust thermostats too wildly. Consider using EMS controls, tamper-proof locking covers on thermostats, or locking screws to prevent tampering.

25. Plan for seasonal weather changes.

Consider a lower set point in the winter months and a higher set point in the summer months, if your system will allow it. Temperatures in the cooling season need to be different from temperatures in the heating season.

26. Optimize start-up time and equipment sequencing.

Start-up, staging and sequencing deal with when in the day your equipment is turning on and how many pieces of equipment are turning on at the same time. If every piece of equipment in the building is firing up at 8 a.m., your peak demand will be much higher than if you begin at 7:45 a.m. and bring your equipment online in a sequential manner over the next half-hour or so. Experiment to determine the latest possible start up time.

27. Coast the last hour of operations.

Experiment to determine the earliest possible time the systems can be powered down while maintaining comfort. Look at your building and see when people leave. You may be able to turn off heating and cooling during the last hour of occupancy, but be sure to maintain ventilation rates within code. Keep in mind that the outside air temperature changes toward the end of the workday. Experiment to see when you can turn the systems off -- the time may be different on Fridays, if people leave early for the weekend.

28. Install variable frequency drives and variable air volume systems.

Motors and fans may not need to run at full speed at all times, due to varying levels of demand placed on the system at different points throughout the day.

29. Install heat recovery equipment.

Heat recovery equipment can optimize the conditioning of ventilated air by recovering heat produced by other heat-producing equipment in the building. Enthalpy wheels transfer heat and humidity between the exhaust and supply air. Their net effect is to bring the supply (incoming) air closer in temperature and humidity to the exhaust air and reduce the load on the heating and cooling systems.

30. Relocate thermostats to optimal locations.

Install or relocate thermostats near return air ducts. Locate thermostats in a place that will give you the readings that you want to send to your HVAC system. Often thermostats were originally located in optimal locations, but over time through tenant improvements such as moving walls, and a variety of other changes to the building, the thermostats are no longer in optimal locations. Re-evaluate the locations of your thermostats.

These tips are valuable, but so is the distribution of your properties' advancements and experiments. Benchmark and share your results by using the EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager to set and reach performance goals for your building. Once you benchmark you can share your data and help the industry in the fields of advocacy, education and recognition.

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